The key artifact of the greatest underdog story ever told1980 Mike Eruzione "The Miracle on Ice" Game Worn USA Olympic Hockey Jersey. It's a humbling experience to see the jersey in the flesh (or in the cloth), a piece that seems at once both as familiar as an old friend and yet scarcely of this world. Having seen the highlight footage dozens of times, and the blockbuster Hollywood film that focused on the captain's heroic exploits, it's still a jolt when its reality intersects with your own. As the game itself, with its Cold War implications, transcended athletics, so does this jersey project more broadly as a treasure of American history than as a simple article of sports memorabilia.
Mike Eruzione was born in October of 1954, just three months after Army counsel Joseph Welch famously denounced Senator Joe McCarthy with the question, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" Though this would prove to be the beginning of the end for America's greatest Communist fearmonger, the Cold War was still as cold as ever when the twenty-five year old captain took to the ice in Lake Placid. Just five months later, President Jimmy Carter would boycott the Moscow Summer Games, a gesture of denunciation repaid by the Russians four years later in Los Angeles.
But here at the Olympic Field House, the two nations, each undefeated at these Games, would have their day of battle. Their previous encounter, just two weeks earlier, had been a distinctly lopsided affair, a ten to three exhibition game drubbing by the Soviets at Madison Square Garden. Months earlier the Russians had handled the professionals just as easily as the amateurs, routing the NHL All-Stars six to nothing in the 1979 Challenge Cup. In Olympic group play, the Soviets had outscored its opponents by a tally of fifty-one to eleven. This match had all the makings of an athletic Bay of Pigs for the American side. The day before the game, New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."
And, of course, Anderson was correct. It would take a Miracle.
Heritage is proud, and enormously grateful, for the opportunity to present to the collecting community a relic of incomparable historical importance--team captain Mike Eruzione's "Miracle on Ice" game worn jersey--the most significant artifact ever to surface from the greatest moment in American sport. In a country that has constructed its national identity on that bootstrap principle that anything is possible for the man who believes in himself, and who gives his full dedication to the task at hand, it's a piece that stands as unimpeachable evidence of that truth. It is, in short, the physical embodiment of the American Dream.
Mr. Eruzione instructs us that his sole intention upon entering this most historic of international hockey tournaments was to earn the Gold Medal, and as such it stands as the only artifact from those Games to which he holds a strong sentimental attachment. Thankfully this presents to the collecting community a piece that many collectors, and those with a concentration in game used gear chief among them, would rate as even more desirable. This is a battle-tested relic from the trenches, as opposed to the Golden spoils of the war.
The jersey bears the manufacturer's label of "Norcon," a sporting goods company headquartered in Forest Lake, Minnesota, about thirty miles from the University of Minnesota where Herb Brooks coached nine members of the U.S. team. The size "XL" garment is crafted primarily from white mesh with blue shoulders and red and blue striping at elbows and waist. Blue and red tackle twill form the bold "USA" lettering in six-inch block on the chest, and the number "21" that appears at each shoulder and reverse. The captain's "C" is affixed at upper left chest, and white stars adorn each shoulder. A white tackle twill "Eruzione" stands in three-inch block on the distinctive blue tackle twill nameplate across the back.
Solid wear is evident, particularly in the yellow sweat staining at interior collar, the general softness of the cloth and tackle twill identifiers, and an unrepaired hole on one sleeve. But like another red, white and blue textile, one that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words of our National Anthem, the scars of battle only make it all the more beautiful.
In both international hockey and auction history, a precedent for Eruzione's heroics has already been set. Paul Henderson became the hero of Team Canada when he netted the winning goal against the Soviets in the 1972 Summit Series, an event considered the greatest moment in Canadian sports history. Three years ago, that jersey garnered a winning bid of $1,275,000 in a Canadian sports auction. Few experts, and certainly none that reside below the forty-ninth parallel, would contend that the offered jersey from the event voted by Sports Illustrated as the Greatest Sports Moment of the 20th Century is not the superior artifact. Now it is up to the bidders to determine which event is more significant in the auction arena. Letter of provenance from Mike Eruzione. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
THE MIKE ERUZIONE 'MIRACLE ON ICE' COLLECTION.
*A donation of $100 to the American Red Cross is required to attend the Live auction.
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2018 November 15-16 Fall Sports Card Catalog Auction